Arsenal Have Youngsters and Money But This is Arteta’s Biggest Challenge

Successful teams have players in their spine who have an implicit desire to do well for the club first and for themselves second. Talent, quality, drive, passion and hard work go a long way, but it is not enough. Wenger was brilliant at selecting and developing players, but, at least for a long time, he also managed to attract and retain players who felt at home at Arsenal and wanted to give their all for the club: the so-called Arsenal DNA-players.

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Over the Wenger years, Arsenal had the likes of Adams, Dixon, Parlour, Vieira, Bergkamp. Ljungberg, Henry, Arteta, Ozil, the BFG, etc in their midst, players who were fully entitled to kiss the badge and call themselves Gunners.

But there were also periods in which Wenger’s talents developed a much more mercenary approach to their attachment to the club. From Nasri, Adebayor, and Fabregas (although in Cesc’s case there were mitigating circumstances for his eventual departure and he did want to return after his Barca-adventure but Wenger closed the door on his prodigal son) to Van Persie, Arshavin and Sanchez, we really suffered from a lack of intrinsic love and commitment to the club over the last decade or so.

The biggest failure at establishing an ‘Arsenal DNA-core’ was surely the disappointing return on investment in the Brit-pack. Wenger had hoped that say from 2015-25 there would have been a core of such players once more. The club made a big hoo-ha about offering long-term contracts to Gibbs, the Ox, Wilshere, Ramsey and Jenkinson, and who of us did not think that this was a great move by Arsene and co?! Sadly, very sadly, they all have flopped both at Arsenal and elsewhere.

The Ox, Ramsey and Wilshere never became Gunners we could rely on which was mainly due to injury and form issues; and Jenkinson and Gibbs could not equal their talents to their undisputed passion for the club.


Aaron had a few episodes of dominant games but he needed a long time to get to his best level and then he would usually get injured within a month or so, and so forth. He opted not to fight for a new contract but to see his existing one out and then sign a lucrative deal at Juve. I have to think hard whether there is a former Gunner who has disappointed me more than the Welsh Wizard. He is now 29, in the very best period of his career statistically, but hardly gets proper game time: 550 minutes of league football, 1 goal, no assists. What a waste of talent.

The Ox’s career is also cursed with injury but he is still relatively young, 26, so the healthy and good years may still come. After six seasons at Arsenal in which he averaged 22 PL games and 1.5 goals per season, he decided that his future lay somewhere else. In three season at Pool he managed to play 51 games and score a total of six goals (two per season). AOC was such a promising talent when he arrived at the home of football but, at least from an Arsenal point of view, he was a total flop.

What is there to say about Jack Wilshere? We all know the story and it is just too sad. Such a talented player who always wanted to make Arsenal great again, but his injury curse just never lifted and he has declined significantly even before his prime years are up. He managed just ten games in two seasons at West Ham and at only 28 you wonder whether he will ever come good. One of the biggest English talents ever to kick a ball but neither for Arsenal or country did he live up to his promise.


Arteta and Mertesacker are good examples of players who came to us and were very proud and keen to fight for the shirt. They were not as talented as some of the above mentioned players, but they made for it by sheer attitude and desire. Luckily, these two ex-players, together with Freddie, are now managers at the club, and hopefully they will be able to reestablish a core of loyal, quality Gunners who take our club all the way to the top again.

As per the fine post of Allezkev, we have some good youngsters coming through, and we can already see a young-core of the likes of Saka, Martinelli, Willock, Guendouzi, AMN, etc establishing itself right now. But as Fabregas once said when asked about the departures of the likes of Vieira, Henry and Gilberto: ‘who do we young players now learn from?’ or something of that ilk.

We need to keep hold of some of the experienced players and work hard to make them feel part of the club and the fanbase. This is essential. We have been rubbish at this over the last ten years or so. Players like Giroud, Koz, Sagna, Song and Coquelin were let go far too easily and I partly blame Wenger for this. These sort of salt of the earth, flag-carrier players are vital for continuity and a sense that loyalty by players is appreciated and reciprocated. If we treat players like commodities then we will end up with an army of contract-focussed mercenaries. This imho has weakened us in the past decenium and does not fit at all with the club’s long established values.

It is up to Arteta to decide who these (non-youngster) players should be going forward, and to communicate effectively his intentions with his players and the supporters. If it was up to me I would pick from the likes of Leno, Bellerin, Xhaka, Torreira, Chambers, Ozil and Auba (or) Lacazette. All have the potential to become club icons, even though a few are not total fan-favourites.

But it would also be good to get one or two ex-Gunners back: those who loved playing for us but were let go too soon. Maybe one of Coquelin, Cazorla or Szczesny could return and combine their passion for the club and experience to give us back a bit of continuity and identity.

The Arsenal formula of super talented youngsters, established, loyal veterans and the occasional super-buy would be the ideal for future success, and one of Arteta’s biggest challenges is to establish that loyal, Arsenal-DNA core once more.

By TotalArsenal.


19 thoughts on “Arsenal Have Youngsters and Money But This is Arteta’s Biggest Challenge

  • Thank you Total, I really enjoyed that post and agree wholeheartedly with your sentiments.

    Arteta has done a fabulous job reintegrating the likes of Xhaka and even Mustafi back into the fold, Mikel has re engaged the fans and the fans have responded and despite our results I can only see positives from his influence.

    A gap has now opened up between Arsenal and the clubs above so our boys really need to get themselves in gear for the run in.

    Interesting to see that Arsenal, Liverpool and Everton are the only teams unbeaten over their last 5 EPL matches. Time to turn those draws into victories.

  • An essence of the club’s DNA in your thoughts TA. Much appreciated.
    Find myself always overly optimistic toward the club’s chances in any circumstances. Even here and now, I’ve little doubt Arteta will reconstruct the foundation required for the team to recover from the malfeasances of the last several (many) years.

    The silver-lining in all of this is the bumper crop of youth players that have slotted directly into the senior team. Was Wenger that far off– regarding the 2015 to 2025 timeframe? There weren’t the prospects coming through from 2015 to 2018. But if those in the team now– and coming soon– play and continue to develop to the level it appears they are capable? That 2020 to 2025 window just may pay off with a jackpot.

    Do agree with you on bringing back a player or two. I’d dearly like to see Santi Cazorla in Red & White once more. It appears he ‘still has what it takes’ — enjoying a good season at Villarreal (11G/5A all comps).


  • Thank you guys and agreed. It is so good to look forward to our games again and we just have to be patient in terms of demanding success. 🙂

  • Great post, TA.
    The dilemma with veterans is that – as they obviously love the game – they all want to play. So only those should remain, that can meet the Premeir League standard even above 32 years.
    Cech, Arteta, Mertesacker and (practically) Rosicky retired from football after playing for Arsenal, and it was reasonable to let Lichtsteiner, Flamini and Debuchy go. The heartbreaking is the leave of Cazorla, Monreal and Koscielny who managed to play at a very high level in the post-Arsenal era. They all could have served the club for a couple of years, and – to be honest – I have some hard feelings against Kos and some against Cazorla, due to the circumstances they left.

    We have now 4 players above 30 (Luiz, Sokratis, Ozil, Auba), but I see only Luiz who can teach the youngsters leadership and organization, even after his playing minutes decreases.

    p.s. I would add Walcott to the post on the British core failing to meet the expectations. He was very promising at a young age, but he didn’t really continue his development. He’s playing alright at Everton, but I always hoped he had more in him than that. (The same applies to Iwobi. His development was also arrested, and his transfer was most likely justified.)

  • Now we have a – or maybe even 2 – British core within Arsenal. The 22-24 years old lads of AMN, Tierney, Holding and Chambers (Macey is excluded here) and the 18-20 years old starlets of Balogun, Saka, ESR, Nelson and Nketiah.
    Maybe it’s only a coincidence, but the former group consist of only defenders, and the latter only attackers (or attack-minded players).

  • Cheers PB. Agreed re Walcott: what a waste of management attention and money. A mercenary with a smile (he will end up in PR or club marketing, I reckon).

    Nice one as well re the two groups of British youngsters and it may well be that both AMN and Willock will become the centre, the heart, of the team (assuming that Guendouzi will move on sooner or later).

    Re Iwobi… I saw a lot of potential in him but the club needed to balance the books and we got a lot of money for him from the Toffees. I wish now we had kept him and not bought Pepe, but hindsight is a beautiful thing…..

  • TA, good job.

    Post Wenger was always bound to be trying. I feel we’ve hit our nidir and it can now only be upwards. Am optimistic about the future. What with Marti, Tierney, Saliba, Saka and the other young ones the future can only look bright. Even Pepe is only 24 and it only needs us to stop seeing him through the lens of £72m for us to begin to appreciate him more. We are lucky to have a good old hand like Luiz around these young ones. Luiz has this Arteta trait of been very keen on the development of individual players particularly the young ones. Auba, Ozil, Xhaka, Bellerin and others are more players the younger ones can look up to. I think the mix is right for this 1st stage of the journey. And of course Arteta looks so much the Mr Right to lead this journey.

  • Interesting re Pepe, PE. I know he is only young and may suffer from confidence and adjustment to the UK issues, so let’s hope he will come good in the coming seasons. The money Arsenal paid cannot be ignored, though, and, potentially, it is this price tag that is also holding Arteta back from trying alternatives on the right wing.

    Until now I see a limited player, very dependent on his left foot and lacking the power to burst through lines and make things happen. It is there occasionally, so there is hope.

  • Great post TA.

    The 2 players that have been let down by the BOD or Wenger are Kos and Ollie, with Rambo a close one.
    Kos’ case is due to his lack of trust with the Board and Emery, and he jumped ship. Although at first we attack him, but in the end I see from another angle and realised this.
    The case with Ollie is that with Auba and Laca his game time will be greatly less, and in that year it is the Euros. So the only way for him is out too. But little did we know how good he is at situations where it is very sticky, and he can spring a surprise goal or 2 to win matches.

    I like what you mentioned to come back for us: Santi confirmed that he would like to come back in some capacity, and having Le Coq back will mean that he will make Tor better. I know that we had debated on this, but it is up to the management and Le Coq himself to see if he is willing to come back.

    For Szecesny, I believe that he likes it at Juve and will not come back. He has a fantastic keeper in Buffon to learn from, so why not? It is good for him for now but in the later years maybe he will come back to here.

  • Cheers 94-10, yes Szczesny is now quite unlikely as Juve is currently a step up from us. Le Coq or a fit Santi – and that is always the question with him – returning would just be great.

  • Hi, guys, I agree with you that Pepe is young, but Özil was also 24 when he came and I don’t remember his youth had ever been an excuse when he was having a day off at that time.

  • I’d think Ozil came in with a big reputation and started most games for Arsenal, the year he joined, even being nominated for the ballon d’or that year. He also finished his first season with 7 goals and 13 assists (he had 8 goals and 20 assist in his 3rd season -probably his best for Arsenal). Point is they are two different sort of players, Ozil and Pepe, with different world status when they joined. Besides, playing under Wenger May have helped Ozil settle quickly; Pepe had Emery.

  • Well done, TA. The article is spot on. Having a core of players, whether British or German (as Wenger appeared to be pursuing at some point) is always going to be positive for success as the players start to act like a “gang” and serve to drive on the rest of the side.

    I agree with the suggestion about building for the next phase with our youngsters, being careful to maintain a good balance with experienced purchases. Future looks bright, fingers crossed.

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